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Portland man charged with aiding suicide bomber in Pakistan

March 05, 2013|By Kim Murphy
  • Rescuers look for victims of a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2009. Authorities say a man from Portland, Ore., provided support to one of the three bombers.
Rescuers look for victims of a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2009.… (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)

SEATTLE—A Portland, Ore., man was arrested by the FBI on Tuesday on charges of aiding one of three suicide bombers who conducted a deadly attack near the headquarters of Pakistan’s intelligence service in Lahore in 2009.

At least 30 people were killed in the attack, in which armed men sprayed guards with gunfire before sending a van loaded with explosives toward a police building near the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, one of the most powerful institutions in Pakistan.

Nearly 300 others were injured as the building was reduced to rubble and several others were twisted and broken. Emergency workers lined up corpses on the sidewalk.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges that Reaz Qadir Khan, 48, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in southeast Portland, was providing money and advice to one of the attackers, Ali Jaleel, who had traveled to Lahore from the Maldives with the aim of joining Islamic militants there.

“Those who provide material support to terrorists are just as responsible for the deaths and destruction that follow as those who commit the violent acts,” Greg Fowler, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said in a statement announcing the arrest.

Little is known about Khan except that he had been a wastewater employee with the city of Portland’s environmental services bureau since 2007. His brother attended his brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Paul Papak on Tuesday afternoon but did not speak to reporters.

According to the indictment, Khan and Jaleel engaged in a long email correspondence that began in 2005 with what appeared to be nostalgic recollections of their past ambitions.

Khan said he was “at a standstill in the matter of knowledge and practice,” and that “everything that we used to talk about now seems like a distant dream,” the indictment said. He said he was asking God to forgive him for his laxness and inaction.

Jaleel is said to have reminded him of promises they’d made to seek "martyrdom" in the name of God. “Where are the words you said with tears in your eyes, that ‘We shall strive until Allah’s word is superior or until we perish???’” he wrote in January 2006. “This world is of no use to us, so let’s sacrifice ourself [sic] for the pleasure of Allah in his way???”

Jaleel, it seemed, was preparing to take action. He was arrested with several others from the Maldives in Sri Lanka en route to Pakistan, reportedly to train to join militants in Iraq or Afghanistan. He determined to try again, and in October 2008 wrote Khan that he was planning to “hasten [his] departure” and would head for Khan’s home country, its exact location undisclosed, the indictment said.

He might not be able to wait for Khan, Jaleel wrote, but if he had to proceed, he would “leave bread crumbs” for Khan to follow. First, though, Khan had to promise to make sure Jaleel’s family would be taken care of.

Khan, according to the indictment, emailed him detailed instructions, advising him how to purchase his tickets, and suggesting that he not tell his family that he didn’t have a job awaiting him in Pakistan.

“I understand fully well, but your inlaws don’t need to know that… For them it is better that they think you have a job there,” Khan wrote to Jaleel, the indictment said. He told Jaleel not to worry about his family. “I understand your worries about your family.... I will try to support them as much as possible,” he said.

Jaleel contacted him next from Sri Lanka, on Oct. 28, 2008, according to the indictment. “Do mail me soon so I shall [know] what I need to do here,” he wrote.

Khan arranged through an unidentified intermediary in Los Angeles to have $2,450 available for Jaleel to pick up from a “trusted brother” in Pakistan, but told Jaleel he should “keep discussion with him to a minimum” when he picked up the money.

On Nov. 5, the indictment says, he told Jaleel to leave a closed envelope addressed to him with the Pakistani contact. “Don’t write anything extra on the envelope. Anything you need to write, put inside,” he advised.

Ten days later, Khan emailed an associate of Jaleel about arranging travel to Pakistan for Jaleel’s two wives.

That appeared to be the last communication. On May 27, 2009, Jaleel and two others mounted the attack that struck near the regional ISI headquarters, killing all three bombers—but not before Jaleel recorded a video released by As Sahab, the media outlet of Al Qaeda, taking responsibility for the attack.

In it, according to the indictment, Jaleel can be seen preparing for the attack at a training camp in what is believed to be one of the tribally controlled areas of Pakistan. A statement he apparently recorded beforehand, under the name of Musab Sayyid, also is included. It says: “I want my blood to be…the red carpet that would take the Islamic nation to its glory,” he said.

The judge set a bail hearing for Wednesday on the charge of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

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